For the good of our children

It is a sad and scary time right now, Americans fear for our children. We worry that the life we leave for them will be much harder than it has been for us. Will they be able to afford education – will there be jobs for them – will they have health care – will there be clean air and water – will there be natural wonders left for them to enjoy – will there be peace in the world or will they have to go to war – will they survive the next school shooting to even worry about the rest?

Every time this happens, it’s the same story, and it has been repeated so many times that we know it by (broken) heart. The tragedy of it is reported and discussed, thoughts and prayers are sent, solutions are argued over, and ultimately nothing happens to change the equation. History repeats. This is not acceptable. The children of Parkland, Fla., are speaking out to demand that we do something. How shameful is it, that our children have to be the adults here. What is wrong with us?

I referred to changing the equation. It is not a simple solution but it is a simple equation. If we start with that, and dissect it, we can start to fix this, but we need to start. Thoughts and prayers will help with healing, but they will not fix the problem, especially coming from our elected officials, that is not their job. That is the job of our chosen religious leaders. Their job is to represent and protect us. It’s stated simply in the preamble to the Constitution; “…establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. …” Domestic tranquility is not insured when our lawmakers cower behind their thoughts and prayers and do nothing. The Preamble begins with “We the People,” this is where the solution starts. We the people have formed this union; this democratic republic; and we the people have to step up and do our job. “Doing our job” will be interpreted in various ways, I have no doubt, but I think everyone will agree on one thing – that we wouldn’t want this to happen to one of our children, or any loved one. So let’s start there and begin to defend our domestic tranquility.

The equation is this: Gun plus emotionally troubled angry person equals mass casualty. It’s simple math. You can have other equations but this one seems to be the biggest problem, therefore, the one that needs to be solved. Arguments that “guns don’t kill, people kill” leave out half of the equation. Arguments that other methods will be used if someone is intent on killing change the sum of the equation; mass casualties are much less likely. The insertion of bombs in place of guns will result in mass casualty but this equation is less common so not our immediate focus. Put another way, a gun laying on a table won’t kill. A person with a motivation to kill will find a way, with or without that gun.

But if he picks up that gun off the table he has just made it a lot easier with more devastating results. For people who are convinced that any attempt at laws that will regulate the preponderance and availability of lethal weapons will result in confiscation of their guns and repeal of the Second Amendment, you are falling victim to the marketing strategy of the gun industry and its powerful spokesman, the NRA, who just want to keep selling their latest shiny new object and keep making their millions. Their most popular product right now — the AR-15, flying off the shelves.

We have regulations governing everything else that is potentially dangerous, why are guns any different? It’s for the protection of our loved ones. The argument that we need more guns (in the hands of the good guys) instead of less can be refuted in the Preamble also – “provide for the common defense” – our military, “insure domestic tranquility”– law enforcement. If our founders had wanted everyone to fend for themselves, they would have planned a government based on anarchy rather than a democratic republic. So Gun + responsible gun owner = legally protected and regulated ownership without harm to others.

Part of our responsibility as “We the People” is to get over this paranoia that any legislation aimed at any regulation of guns will strip away our rights, to recognize it as propaganda dispensed by a powerful gun industry whose only goal is profit at the expense of our lives. The need we feel to protect our right to own a gun is a result of a very effective advertising campaign, spread out over many years, which has pumped funding into the media and into the political campaigns of our elected officials.

Allowing massive donations to go into campaigns has turned our lawmakers into errand boys for the powerful interest groups, the gun industry primary among them. Candidates must now depend on that money just to be able to compete. We need to let our lawmakers know that we demand action, and vote out any that feed off of gun money to stay in office. With fresh representation we can push for campaign reform and remove big money from the equation. We can change the equation by decreasing the value of the addend “Gun.”

The addend “emotionally troubled angry person” also has roots in our collective society along with the glorified status of guns. From the dawn of television, guns were central to the westerns we loved to watch. The violence and graphic nature has increased over the years, to the point of desensitization, a definite contribution to the decision of someone with emotional troubles to turn to violence. Recently hate groups have become more visible and bold, which doesn’t help either.

Developments in communication and media have inserted an electronic friend and babysitter between humans, hampering interaction and bonding, increasing isolation and division, reducing the human connection necessary for empathy. Economic difficulties that average families now face make it harder to sustain a functional, stable family life when both parents must work and still can’t make ends meet. Disillusionment and futility turn into anger and violence.

Economic difficulties are problems that a government that is concerned about its population can solve. If political leaders care more about themselves and their donors then they won’t try, and of late, will even make it worse. Decreasing this addend will be complicated since so many contributing factors are ingrained in our culture, but many things can still be done that will help. Identifying individuals at risk and helping them find other solutions is a start.

The important thing is “we the people” need to take responsibility. Gun owners need to support reasonable regulations, and say so. We all need to call for more funding for mental health and emotional support specialists, and for instructing and supplying our law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to protect us. Finally, we need to vote out of office any official who does not act in the best interest of all Americans, not just the wealthy. We can be heard this Nov. 6. Vote like the lives of your children depend on it.

Susan Bigler is a Sheridan resident.

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